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“Tom Heerter Memorialized”

Bat for a Cause (002)
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  “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. Maldonian from border to border, coast to coast and all ships at sea. Let’s go to press…”

  A former player has started a drive to honor Coach Tom Heerter for his years of dedication to the youth of Malden. Tom has been manager, coach, administrator, and most importantly, a mentor in Malden Babe Ruth League, Malden Little League, Al Locke Youth Basketball, Malden Neighborhood Basketball, Malden Pop Warner and CYO Hockey. A memorial is being constructed in Tom’s honor at Pine Banks Park. The dedication ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, June 3, at 11:00. Tom did not limit his tutelage to the players he coached. Orioles practices were not limited to current players. Opposing players, former players and any kid who happened to walk through the park were welcome to join. Organizers are reaching out to those who played for Tom, coached in the same leagues or simply remember him for all he did.

  Hardball maven Bob Rotondi remembers Tom: “Tom Heerter, the coach for all seasons. Baseball, basketball, football. The year ’round mentor, that was Tom. By trade; a butcher at Mal’s Market for years. Retired out of Flanagan’s Markets; the one in Southie. By night and on weekends, coach. Winning wasn’t as important as getting the message across, whatever the sport. Tom was National L.L. President, B.R.L. secretary, Pop Warner A Team coach, Al Locke League coach, then later president. Tom coached the prep league team Brewers in the B.R.L. before moving up to Orioles in 1986. He was still managing the Orioles when he passed in 2015. Disclaimer: Tom’s nature, at times, could be contrary. Especially when it came to rule interpretation. Many was the night at Dunkin’ when arguments went on forever. It was up to me to return ‘peace’ to the band of coaches, so I’d get Tom a powdered lemon donut, and he’d cover himself with white dust. After brushing himself off, he’d forget who he was arguing with. Tom would give you the shirt off his back. Not that you would want it. He was a true friend. Certainly was to me. My sister found out he liked raisin bread. She made him a loaf one time. Tom ate it that night with a jar of peanut butter. Picture Kimballs’ Ice Cream stand in Westford. Stopped there one time with Tom. It was 98 degrees. They had 50 flavors. Tom got frozen pudding. Frozen pudding! Who does that?! That was Tom – different – and that’s why we loved him. Tom had 2 sons and 2 daughters. He, and his wife [Charlestown’s favorite daughter] Kay, also had 2 grandsons. He loved to bring the whole gang to New Hampshire every summer for an adventure in the mountains. His one escape from coaching all season. The memorial planned for this man at Pine Banks is spot on. Tom loved this park of all the ones he coached in the most. If you are in the neighborhood, stop and say hello.”

  As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – one recent Saturday morning, Bikeeny Caffe coffee in hand, I stopped by my old stamping ground, Devir Park. My goal was to read my Malden Advocate under the old shade tree that sits in the middle of the park, closest to Malden Street, where Coach Frank Adorn lived. The park is under construction so I could not sit under the tree, but the work reminded me how (John) Monte would maintain the park all by himself with the most rudimentary of equipment. A flood of memories came to mind. One that will always stick out is the sight of Frankie Letizia (Class of 1976) and his father – just the two of them – taking batting practice and fielding grounders. For hours! I emphasize, JUST the two of them, in all kinds of hot, humid temps! We’d be sitting on the Bandstand in the shade, just shaking our heads. Frankie’s dad had a tryout with the Boston Braves; he was good, he knew baseball and he was a great father. The hard work paid off for Frankie. He was an all-star throughout his long career starting with the Braves in Little League, then the Chiefs in the B.R.L., where he had some outstanding teammates, such as Tommy Cunha, Jeff Reynolds, Tommy Cronin and Mike Vona. He played high school ball under neighborhood good guy Mr. Adorn. Then he played two years of J.V. ball at UMass Amherst, the 69’ers, with Billy and Mike Pitts, Billy Smeglin and Shawn Brickman – retiring after winning four championships in 10 years with the old Augustine A’s. I ran into Frankie and his girlfriend at last year’s St. Rocco Feast; still looks like he could fit into his old M.H.S. uniform!

  Frankie has vivid memories of growing up at Devir Park: “Devir Park! What FANTASTIC memories for me. The Bandstand, St. Rocco’s fireworks before they built the Irish American, pickup games of all sports, the two crazy guys from the old hood “Twigs” & “Bang Bang,” “Frenchies” penny candy around the corner on Charles Street, and always practicing with my dad. The sports stars: the Levine’s for sure [thank you, Frankie] and Freddie and Bobby Covelle along with their dad. “Monty” the grounds keeper kicking us off the field on game days. And the older legends such as George Vasapoli, Dom Fermano, Paul Gennetti, Dom DiSario, Paul Nazzaro, and Jackie Bottagio (with the handicapped right hand). I could go on and on and on. Wonderful memories from a different era.”

  Postscript 1: Malden/Medford-based rock gawds Extreme are in the news again – set to release new material for the first time in 15 years – the presale buzz on “Six” has been deafening! The single “Rise” was released through the World Wide Web, setting ears ablaze with Nuno’s Eddie Van Halenesque sonic riffs and Gary’s (always) soaring vocal gymnastics. Much buzz ahead of the early June release with an extensive world tour already announced. So, get out there and support some local boys made good. Their Hampton Beach gig in August is already sold out, but you can always road trip to Portland, Maine, or Hartford, Conn., or Boston, Mass. With that said here is some great Dream/Extreme history brought to you by Medford homie Michael DiRienzo. A valued insider in the early days, Mike rocked a pair of elephant bell bottoms like nobody’s business and was the guy who made the band sound and look great back in that MTV era.

  “Peter Hunt was the original guitarist. A Stratocaster purist who had some very tasty leads back then and wrote many of the early songs. Hal Lebeaux was an addition when they went from The Dream to Extreme and dropped the keyboard player. The Dream and early Extreme were more pop/rock than the hard rock they eventually became with Nuno. The video (for the song ‘Mutha, Don’t Wanna Go to School Today’) was directed by Scott Kalvert, who later went on to direct ‘The Basketball Diaries’ with Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Lorraine Bracco, Juliette Lewis and more. The ‘Mutha’ video cost us 20 grand. Twice as much as we intended. It was financed by relatives and fans who were all related, eventually. For its time, it was a great video. All music videos were cheesy at the time. It went on to the finals of the MTV Basement Tapes video contest.”

  Mike is still active in the business. Say hello to him at this summer’s St. Rocco Feast. He is the man who makes Beatlejuice sound and look great these days.

  Postscript 2: Speaking of Devir Park…Devir was always a family-friendly public space. In our youth, during daylight hours, Devir Park was overrun with every child in Edgeworth – possibly the last generation where siblings numbered four or five per family. Every square foot in the park was in use. The Bandstand was always mobbed. Activities on the Bandstand included (but were not limited to) chowing on a Big A sub, drinking a Schlitz or getting your “illegal smile” on. From the basketball and tennis courts to the in-ground water sprinkler to the children’s playground – girls and boys showed up. Bruce Field was constantly in use as well as a makeshift diamond right behind the ugly green wooden fence on the Malden Street side. The big-league diamond was always in demand, but the field that got the most use was the softball diamond. The diamond nearest the Shell Gas Station was bumping from early morning deep into the night. Skippy Murray, Rob McCarthy’s late uncle Joey and his father Bobby, Dante and Bobby DiSerio, Jimmy and Dennis Damiano, Dommy DiSario, Joe DeVincentis, George DeCandia, George Miller, Paul Murphy, Joe Levine, Cliff Cioffi showcasing (and showboating) like the park bosses they were. It was a summer wonderland for Edgeworth (and Amerige) youngsters: a place for our generation to stay active, stay local and out of trouble (somewhat). What memories! As the years roll on by, Devir remains a constant. And as time marches on, carrying those memories further and further away we hold them closer and closer to our hearts. Here’s hoping future generations have as much fun as we did.

  Postscript 3: Please donate easily and safely to the Tom Heerter Memorial at www.pinebanks.org. Thank you.

  Peter is a longtime Malden resident and a regular contributor to the Malden Advocate. He can be reached at PeteL39@aol.com for comments, compliments or criticisms.

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